Oct
29
2009
5

Fooling Yourself.

Just taught my Halloween special lecture in computer security and am reminded about the ease of fooling yourself. The lecture itself is about some mis-leading statistics and a bit of slight of hand. The use and more importantly the design of control experiments is critical in science to help avoid fooling yourself.

Slight of hand itself is a good example of the fooling yourself. You can’t mislead your audience unless you, sort of, mislead yourself. When doing the “french drop” or the pass vanish – you have to look at where the coin or ball should be and not where it is. The magic isn’t convincing unless you look like you”re convinced too. Smoothness helps, but the audience looks where you direct them.

In science, getting the answer you want and expect is always troubling. If you aren’t wrong most of the time, then you aren’t working at the bleeding edge. You need to moral courage to keep at it. This is one of the hardest things to teach, but one of the most critical things that my students need to learn.

Written by Rob in: pedagogy,science |
Oct
29
2009
0

More thoughts on Shelter

I’m still debating shelter options. The best weight I can find is from Gossamer Gear (8.8 oz), but the shelters are a bit on the small side – nothing you could use, without going stir crazy, for more than a night. Most of the Sylon tarps are about 15 oz and the lightest groundsheet I can find is 1.5 oz or so (also from gossamer gear). So, counting stakes and lines at about the same weight, I’m looking at about 1 lb savings but having a much larger dry area. So the Mountain Laurel Designs pentagonal tarp is looking the best.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,engineering |
Oct
28
2009
0

Some Professional Stuff

I generally don’t discuss my scientific work in detail on this blog because

  1. The proper place for it is the reviewed literature
  2. I don’t want to scoop myself or my collaborators

That said, it is worth giving a link so you can see what we do here.

Pubmed makes this easy. Hitting this link should show most of my more than 200 publications on areas ranging from bioinformatics to molecular design and HIV. My apologies to the occasional other Harrison, RW (actually several – I have a common name) that it grabs.

Written by Rob in: Uncategorized |
Oct
19
2009
0

Gear Stuff – testing the limits

Had a chance to go backpacking this last weekend & since it was arranged at the last minute we ended up going to the section of the Pinhoti trail near Dalton that I’ve posted a map of before.

It was cold. Not Northern winter cold, but cold none the less.

I’d replaced my leaky self-inflating pad with a z-pad. They came as full length and so I shortened it to 3/4 length to give me more room in the pack and because I use clothing and the other pad from my pack for my feet anyway. That worked well. My very lightweight summer bag (REI Nooksack – they don’t make it anymore for good reason!) finally has met its temperature match. It’s fine with a silk liner & polypros & a fleece to about 32F (0), but then you have to be careful about stretching it as you move. If you stretch it thins the insulation and then you are sort of chilly.

The trip was a first-time backpacking trip for a couple of young scouts (70-80lbs 11-12 years old). They had a good time. It is critical to check their packs and ruthlessly remove extra weight.  One of my bette noirs about normal youth packs is the weight.  If  the pack itself weighs 4-5 lbs then the youth only has weight-room for another 5 lbs before they are overloaded.  I wish there were an ultralight pack sized for youth.   It is also good to let them set the pace and keep an eye on their tiredness. If they seem to be dragging – guess what – the adult should say he’s tired because they will only admit tiredness when truly exhausted (and that’s no fun).

We saw lots of persimon trees, but none with any fruit.  Found some bear droppings and they were full of persimon seeds.  So that explained a lot.

I also demonstrated  freezerbag cooking which mostly worked, but can be a real mess if the food is too gooey. I was reading the “as the crow flies” blog and the author uses a different technique with a spatula to clean her pots. I’m thinking that may be better in the end.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,scouting |
Oct
12
2009
1

Maybe not quite so bad

(followup on my last post)
The structure prediction server is back online. There was a combination of events that caused it, but the fix involved:

  1. Making sure it was properly registered with the GSU authorities
  2. Fixing a weird network bug – somehow (probably related to the troubles with the cabling but possible a fossil configuration) the netmask was set to a weird value (it was set for the local net (192.168.1.x) behind a router). Why this let it talk to GSU but not the rest of the world is odd but true.

Thanks to Shaochieh and Yan Fang for their help.

Written by Rob in: laboratory practice,pedagogy |
Oct
09
2009
0

We’re #300 and proud of it

Just found out that my structure prediction server, which is part of an international experiment, cited as an example of the quality of our work and used in courses is off-line. Well off-line to the world, but not inside of GSU. It was taken off-line silently without informing the responsible people for some reason. ARRGH!

I guess we are continuing our dive-to-the-bottom (r)

And I thought we were doing well for an institution that’s only been a research university for 15-20 years.

This is actually worse than slightly embarrassing. I was planning to volunteer to build a data verification server for casp (being a half-breed experimentalist I am uniquely qualified to test models against real data rather than some abstract geometric measure), but if I can’t keep my own server on-line why should they trust me to develop one for them? I finally was able to build a stable server by using linux and excluding direct student participation in the production version (they tend to turn it off) and now the university seems determined to bury us.

It gets even more fun. We have a help line that is supposed to handle these things. It simply flags the department manager who then flags it which then flags him …

It’s truly insidious in its design. It looks to the GSU environment like everything is fine (and as of a week ago was fine), but doesn’t read from the outside and doesn’t write to the outside so the carefully engineered server is DOA. The server is designed to be relocatable and to have multiple frontends, but that doesn’t help if it is locked up because some dum s..t can’t be bothered to fix the network settings.

We also had fun with someone disconnecting all the cables in the lab. This was followed by reseting the various switches to non-functional status. Isn’t GSU a great place.

Written by Rob in: pedagogy,science |
Oct
05
2009
0

On the importance of insulation

Just a quick post – I was helping with the adult scout leader training for my district, which is a rewarding task. Anyway we were displaced from our normal site by a big Order of the Arrow confabulation, and then from the backup site by lake Allatoona being 12 feet above flood stage and ended up in the north Georgia mountains at camp woodruff. Great place but with the beginning of fall, on the cold side.

None the less, I decided to try supplementing my very light summer bag and see if I could use ultra-light techniques. Friday was the warmer of the two nights and I was quite chilly – ended up with my jacket and polypro’s on- and my self inflating pad kept collapsing. After finding the hole in the pad and using a little of the universal fixit -duct tape- the pad sort of worked the next day and even though it was colder I was more than warm enough.

Clearly, without the insulation of an inflated pad, the heat was just leaving my body into the ground and I was getting chilled. With the pad (even if I had to inflate it once in the night), the sleeping system worked well. (Bit of a pity – I was sort of hoping to make a case for getting a really nice western mountaineering down bag ;-) )

One neat thing from the training was the increased incidence of ultralight and lightweight backpacking among the trainees. Normally when I do my bit of a speel about lightweight techniques, it is a bit of a shock, but two of them already knew a lot about it and were trying to apply it in their son’s troops. This is truly good news, and eventually the 50(+)lbs pack at Philmont may cease to be a right of passage.

Written by Rob in: backpacking,outdoors,scouting |

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